Often, the most difficult thing about writing action is the pace. It is important not to weigh down your prose with descriptors while trying to paint your gory picture. As we’re sure you can tell from watching any action-filled summer blockbuster, things move fast! If the writing is “slow” (i.e., bogged down by a ton of expansive sentences, adverbs/adjectives, and lengthy dialogue), there’s always a strong reason for it. Keep that in mind when you’re writing.

If you’re writing from the point of view of your character (first-person), remember that he or she is not an omniscient being. In an action-packed situation like yours, describing every moment in fine detail would be unrealistic. Instead, be impressionistic — a flash of blood here, a zombie moan there, a dash of gray matter to top it off. Use vivid detail that moves plot forward in fits and spurts instead of paragraphs of blow-by-blow description. 

Also, the violence and action should be a gritty mixture cerebral and physical if you’re writing from first-person point of view. The character should be fighting waves of fear-induced nausea, pressing his or her aching body onward, and praying to a higher power that the zombies don’t catch up. This is some meaty stuff for writers!  Relish it. 

If you’re writing in the third-person, try thinking like a camera in a horror movie. You might pan over the scene from above, show some desolated street corners, catch a glimpse of your hero hiding in a basement with a shotgun, show the oncoming zombie horde, and then let the battle break out. As Richard Price famously said, “You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.” 

Other things to keep in mind:

Action scenes take practice and editing. If you can, plan your scenes thoroughly before you write them, get all the description out of your head and on the page, then dial it back to the barest minimum. The reader should be whipping the pages, not just turning them. Make them stop and stare in breathless panic at the end of a chapter. That’s when you know you’ve done your job. 

Further reading:

Thank you for your question! Did we miss anything? Do you have something to add? Tell us here!

Also, thank you to Evvy for helping out with this post. You’re awesome!

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